And, strangely enough on the eve of the state tournament brackets being announced, maybe the most anticlimactic, too.
“This was a good game for us to win, but when you play the same team (five) times, you get a little tired of playing them,” Cibola’s Desmond Carpenter said.
On a night with almost no crowd electricity inside the Cleveland gym, the Cougars won the District 1-6A tournament championship on Saturday, beating the Storm 67-60.
Here’s how seriously Cleveland coach Brian Smith took this game – true to his word, Smith sent his second unit out to start the game. And they played pretty much the entire first quarter before any of the Storm’s regular starters began to make appearances.
Cleveland’s best two players, Marcus Williams and Marcus Hill, didn’t check in until the second quarter.
After the Storm beat Rio Rancho eight days earlier, Smith said if Cleveland beat Cibola in the 1-6A playoff game, which it did, he’d likely send his second team out in the district tournament final, knowing his state tournament seed would probably not be impacted, win or lose.
“You don’t want to throw a game, and that’s not what we were trying to do,” Smith said. “And I didn’t want the kids to think that. We’re trying to give (some) kids some experience.”
Cibola admitted to being thrown off.
“We were confused,” Carpenter said. “But then we decided to jump on them at the start.”
Cibola (22-5) started on a 10-0 run, but as Smith began to insert his starters, the game did get highly competitive, just as the previous four were. Cibola scored the final four of the first half to lead 32-28.
Cleveland had 12 of the next 14 points, and after Williams nailed a 3-pointer, the Storm led 40-34 midway through the third quarter. But Cibola, which got to the foul line 36 times, scored its final six of the quarter from the stripe, led 48-45 after three and never relinquished the lead again.
The Cougars led by at least three throughout the fourth quarter. Post Isaac Maldonado was tremendous down low for Cibola, scoring 26 points and grabbing a dozen rebounds. Carpenter finished with 18 points. It was the Cougars’ second win on Cleveland’s floor this season.
“We felt like we need to be playing better going into the state tournament,” Cibola coach Ray Rodriguez said. “To us, this is a big deal.”
Williams had 18 points to pace the Storm (21-7).
– James Yodice
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 48, VALLEY 43: At Bulldog City, AHS rallied in the second half to capture the District 5-6A championship over the top-seeded Vikings.
The game was played on the second-seeded Bulldogs’ court as the Vikings’ gym is under renovation.
Senior guards Gabe Bump and Allonzo Armijo scored 21 and 14 points, respectively, to lead AHS (17-9). Valley beat the Bulldogs on the AHS floor just a couple of weeks earlier.
“We wanted to come out and pretty much get revenge on these guys,” Bump said. “They’ve always kind of beat us down for my whole high school career.”
The Bulldogs were clinging to a 26-25 lead at halftime when the Vikings (18-7) started the third quarter on a 9-1 run to seemingly take control.
Bump then hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to pull AHS within 34-32. Zeke Roybal hit a 3 for Valley, only to see Armijo hit a buzzer-beating 3 to end the quarter.
“Allonzo Armijo’s 3s were just unbelievable,” Bulldogs coach Ron Garcia said. “I’m so proud of him. He came in early all week, came in two or three hours ahead of time and worked on his shooting. It really paid off.”
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair until the final 90 seconds, when the Bulldogs went 6 for 6 from the free-throw line to put it the game away.
“We were able to make more shots and make our free throws,” said Bump, who made four of those final six free throws. “Last time we struggled from the free-throw line against them.”
Sophomore guard Segun Oyeku led the Vikings with 16 points.
– Chris Jackson
SANDIA 63, ELDORADO 57: At Eldorado, senior post Caleb Wroten scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and the top-seeded Matadors held off a late charge from the No. 3 Eagles to win the District 2-6A tournament championship.
Sandia (16-9) led by 11 at halftime, 14 early in the third quarter and by 13 with a little more than three minutes to go in the game, but Eldorado wouldn’t go away. A 3-pointer brought the Eagles (9-18) to within 60-57 with 1:10 remaining, but that was as close as they would get.
Sandia coach Alvin Broussard wasn’t surprised that the Eagles were difficult to put away.
“There were hungry. They wanted it. It’s hard to beat a team four and five times. But that’s what district’s about, and that’s what makes this fun,” he said. “They played extremely hard. I’ve got to give them some credit. They battled back; they were tough tonight. Our boys, they responded.”
The Matadors appeared ready put the game away when a Wroten bucket gave them a 41-27 lead at the 6:13 mark of the third period. Sandia’s offense stalled from there, however, scoring just one point the rest of the quarter.
Both teams scored 21 points in a frenetic fourth quarter, with seven different Eagles scoring to spark one final rally that ultimately fell short. Tanner Carter and Kameron Valencia led Eldorado with 10 points apiece, while Tanner Sloan added 13 for Sandia.
– Tristen Critchfield
HOPE CHRISTIAN 80, SANTA FE INDIAN 40: At Hope, Marcus Medina led the Huskies with 22 points as they routed the Braves (15-14), who were playing their fourth game of the week. This was for the District 5-4A tournament championship.
Hope Christian (25-2) buried nine 3-pointers in the victory, and led 50-17 at halftime.